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Is Your Mind Making You Fat … and Keeping You That Way?
The Power of Your Subconscious #1



Your mind may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to the battle of the bulge, but it deserves some definite attention. Not only do your emotions influence how much and what types of food you choose to eat, but your brain itself may as well.

Women may have more emotional cravings for food than men, even if they’re not really hungry, a new study has found.

Case in point, a new study from Brookhaven National Laboratory found that women, in particular, seem hard-wired to have emotional cravings for food.

In the study volunteers fasted for 17 hours, then were put into brain-imaging PET scanners, and were instructed NOT to think about food. But here’s the catch, they were then tempted with tiny tastes, smells and descriptions of their favorite foods.

But while both men and women were able to lower the overall sensation of hunger, women had a harder time shutting off their thoughts about food. Even when their feelings of hunger had dissipated, women still felt a desire to eat.

Further, just being stressed out can cause you to gain weight, according to the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation.

"Under stress, people conserve more fat, and we think that may be what's going on here," says psychologist and study co-author Tené Lewis of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Even after taking into account other factors that could affect weight gain (exercise habits, diet, smoking, etc.) it was found that the more bad things the women reported, the more weight they gained!

And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your mind -- your subconscious -- and your weight.

How Your Mind May
Sabotage Your Weight

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For starters, we’re all subjected to plenty of food advertisements and most of those ads are not for healthy foods. The bulk of the advertising goes to sway our kids, and according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in a typical day the average 8-12-year-old sees:

  • 5 ads for candy and snacks
  • 4 ads for fast food
  • 4 ads for sodas and other soft drinks
  • 3 ads for cereal
  • 2 ads for restaurants
  • 1 ad for prepared foods
  • 2 ads for the following categories combined: dairy, water, juice, meat, poultry, fish, fruit, vegetables or grains

Do these ads encourage kids to want more junk foods? Certainly, and if you’re a parent that may mean you keep more unhealthy foods around your house -- to tempt you to sabotage your own diet. Even without kids, food advertising can have subtle impacts on your desire to eat foods that aren’t good for your waistline.

But advertisements are just one example. Here are some others:

Fad Diets

Are you swayed by the latest diet craze, the one that pushes low-fat, low-carbs, high-protein or any other mix of foods that is “guaranteed” to make you lose weight? Do you try them time and again, even though they always fail you?

Again, this is your emotions getting the better of you.

No fad diet will help you lose weight better than the old-fashioned advice to limit your calories … no matter what type they are. A new study published in the February 26, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine just further proved this point: researchers found that one diet is no better than the next when it comes to weight loss. All that matters is that you eat less.

"We have a really simple and practical message for people: it's not so much the type of diet you eat," says Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "It's how much you put in your mouth."

ANY Diet, For That Matter

The notion of “dieting” is ingrained in many of our heads, sometimes from childhood when we watched our mothers or fathers struggling with their own diets. As a result, you may feel, even subconsciously, that the only way to lose weight is by meticulously counting calories and fat grams, or starving yourself on cabbage soup and grapefruit.

Again, this is letting your mind play tricks on you.

According to a two-year study published in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, if you're looking to achieve long-term health improvements, behavior changes and self-acceptance are more effective than dieting any day of the week

Portion Sizes

Do you think you must eat meals the size of thimbles to stay thin? Another trick of your mind! Thin people eat until they’re full … but they fill their plates mostly with fruits, veggies and lean protein. You can also trick yourself into thinking you’re eating more by using a smaller plate, such as a salad plate. It looks full, but you’re eating less than if you used a full-size dinner plate.

healthy foods

Once you’ve programmed your mind around healthy lifestyle habits, choosing good-for-you foods is natural.

Working out is a Luxury

Think you don’t have time to workout? Well, waist size is not all about food … it’s also about exercise. Taking the time to workout, even if it means giving up something else, is a trait that in-shape people share … and one that you should get your mind around. It’s not selfish to take time for yourself to exercise … it’s smart.

How to Program Your Mind to Reach Your Ideal Weight

Losing weight is not about dieting or restrictions … it’s about changing the way you think about food, eating and a healthy lifestyle in general.

The first step to doing this is to become aware of your eating patterns; for instance if you tend to overeat when you're stressed about work, then make adjustments based on them. If you know you tend to overeat when you're overwhelmed, make it a point to keep yourself busy with another activity (even something relaxing like reading or taking a bath) during this time.

Next, focus on making small changes in your lifestyle, not on losing weight. For instance, rather than thinking, "I have to lose 30 pounds," think, "Today I'm going to take a pass on the bread and butter and go for a walk after dinner."

By adding just one or two healthy behaviors to your routine each day, you’re subtly changing your old, weight-sabotaging habits into new healthier ones.

And finally, stay positive. Focus on all you have to GAIN from your newfound mindset, rather than all you’re giving up. As you make the switch, we highly recommend using the Pure Relaxation: Guided Meditations for Body, Mind & Spirit CD by respected meditation expert Mary Maddux to help reprogram your unhealthy habits.

The guided meditations and music on this CD calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body. Using these guided meditations regularly will help you to live in a more relaxed way and you'll notice that when you begin to feel stressed or tempted to engage in an unhealthy behavior, you'll be able to relax more easily than before and get back in control.

Recommended Reading

Stress Now Proven to Cause Weight Gain in Women: Five Key Stress-Reduction Tips

Simple Methods to Prevent Age-Related Weight Gain


Shine from Yahoo February 27, 2009

New England Journal of Medicine February 26, 2009

Yahoo News February 26, 2009 January 19, 2009

Kaiser Family Foundation, Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States

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